16 Pentecost 2011
Matthew 21: 33-46
Pastor Chris Enstad
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and our Lord, Jesus Christ. Amen.
Jesus, Jesus, Jesus. Do you understand what you are doing here? Why oh why are you continuing to mouth off to the religious authorities? Why oh why are you challenging their authority in front of the crowd, don’t you understand that they work with the Roman government? Don’t you understand what is going to happen to you if you don’t just keep your head down? You are standing in the temple, in Jerusalem, in front of the chief priests and elders of the people talking down to them and telling parables that aren’t quite parables are they, they aren’t quite as hard to understand as some of your other parables, it’s like you’re not even trying to protect yourself from the charges of heresy and even treason.
Just last Sunday we heard you respond to the questioning of the authorities who came to you challenging your authority and you responded by challenging theirs and in fact knocked their authority down a couple rungs by forcing them to respond to your question regarding the baptism of John with the answer, “We don’t know.” You told the parable of the two sons one who said he would go to work and didn’t and the one who said he wouldn’t go to work and then did asking which one did the will of the father... clearly it was the one who changed his mind. You held out to the people of Israel yet another chance to repent and to live not just as children of God by title but by deeds as well.
And now today, today Jesus you continue to press your point with yet another parable, right on the heels of the first. And now you are really going to far.
Why are you doing this?
Jesus tells this story:
A master of a house planted a vineyard, dug the winepress and then wanted to turn the business over to tenants who would pay rent freeing him to pursue other endeavors. He sends his servants to get his payment, the first fruits of the harvest, and the tenants beat one, killed the other and stoned yet another! And so the owner sent MORE servants and they did the same to them!
So the owner said, “Ok, maybe if I send my son they will respect him.” But the tenants thought to themselves, “hey this is his only son if we kill him we can have the inheritance for ourselves.” So they killed him. “What do you think the owner will do to them,” Jesus asks the religious authorities?
“He will put them to death and give them vineyard to someone who will do right by him.”
“Ahh,” Jesus said. “You know that it is written that the stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone.” (that’s Psalm 118)
“Therefore the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people producing its fruits. “
And it turns out the chief priests and Pharisees didn’t have to think very hard to get it, and they they decided they needed to get him.
There are two very important, life and death important, things that we need to grasp by faith this morning.
The first is that our God is a loving God. A young pastor out in California named Francis Chan wrote a book about God’s love and he titled it, “Crazy love”. For God’s love is indeed crazy, it is irrational, it makes no sense to us in how we treat each other and go about our daily lives of judgement, lack of mercy and compassion, it is truly a crazy God who would love us so much that he sent his prophets to proclaim His commands as our Creator and we rejected them.
You don’t believe me? Well how about let’s see how our lives and actions and politics and government and communities line up against God’s word then? There are a whole lot of preachers getting up into their pulpits today to make a point that the church should be involved in vetting politicians. My guess is that their sermons will be more about the empire than the Kingdom. What politician can possibly measure up to the Word of God? Shall we see how we are doing as a country?
How about Jeremiah? “ Woe to him who builds his house by unrighteousness and his upper rooms by injustice, who makes his neighbor serve him for nothing and does not give him his wages, who says, “I will build myself a great house with spacious upper rooms, who cuts out windows for it paneling it with cedar and painting it with vermilion. Do you think you are a king because you compete in cedar? Did not your father eat and drink and do justice and righteousness? Then it was well with him. He judged the cause of the poor and needy; then it was well.”
Oh yes the words of the prophets were rejected.
But this crazy God, this love-crazy God did not end it all for us then for good, no, he sent MORE prophets. How about Ezekiel?
“If a man is righteous and does what is right and just -- if he does not eat upon the mountains or lift up his eyes to the idols of the house of Israel, does not defile his neighbor’s wife does not oppress anyone but restores to the debtor his pledge, commits no robbery, gives his bread to the hungry, and covers the naked with a garment, does NOT lend at interest or take any profit, witholds his hand from injustice, executes true justice between man and man, walks in my statutes, and keeps my rules by living faithfully -- he is righteous, he shall surely live, declares the Lord God.”
Our crazy-loving God offered us the means to repentence over and over again and we rejected those efforts every single time.
And so God sent his Son. And we killed him too. But our God, the God who loved us so much that he sent his Son to win us back to him. That God who had all rights under any sense of justice anywhere in the world to call it quits for us once and for all.
That God won us back because that rejected stone became the cornerstone of a whole new world.
Oh the chief priests and Pharisees got it all right, and they, in the end, got Jesus, but Jesus got us back.
Second, we must always remember that this world, our lives, our families, our time, our money, our possessions are not ours. We are leasing them from the one who created them all in the first place. God asks of us the first fruits of our labors and our worship and praise and to love our neighbor as ourselves. Think back to the roots of sinful thoughts or occasions in your own lives and how many of those sins can be traced back to the moment when you forgot that this whole thing is on loan from God and mistakenly thought it was all about you and your will and your desires and YOUR opinions of your neighbors and the poor and the weak and the downtrodden?
When I turn on the TV and find people cheering that an old person be allowed to die because they couldn’t afford insurance, that a gay soldier might be booed for asking for equal rights from the countrymen he is protecting, and then cheered a state that has committed 237 execution supposedly because we are so certain of our own judgement that we see fit to take the life of another human being... we are so dead certain that we take it on ourselves to remove from God’s vineyard a person he created.
Where is our Ezekiel today? Where is our Jeremiah?
I don’t care what party you are from, I don’t care about your politics, I care about your souls, I am going to be held accountable for those. So line your lives up to God’s word today people? Would you not have rejected the Son sent to claim what was his Dad’s to give it to someone more deserving?
Thanks be to God that our God loves us more than we can love each other and forgives us for taking it upon ourselves to sentence his Son to death. I pray that each of us and our own egos and wills and desires may fall on the rejected stone of Christ, to be shattered today once and for all... and a new house be built from those pieces, with Christ as our cornerstone, as our head, the first fruits of the true life to come.